How to Sleep Better After Drinking Alcohol - A Few Drinks Can Ruin Your Rest but All Is Not Lost
Sadly, as we age, our post-alcohol sleep quality deteriorates rapidly. And that’s not even getting into the hangover.
Alcohol can give you a hangover and make you feel so lethargic and worn out after a night of heavy drinking.
This is typically because you get such poor sleep. It only takes a few drinks to ruin your rest, but all is not lost.
Here's how you can turn a restless night into something that's at least a little recharging.
Before You Go Out
You might have experienced the "rebound effect,” This is when you have drunk some drinks before bed and ended up sleeping deeply but then shallowly.
You end up waking and falling asleep throughout the night. It makes you constantly slip out of the deep sleep and into lighter stages of sleep that are easier to wake from.
Timothy Roehrs and Thomas Roth (Henry Ford Sleep Disorders and Research Center) explain the rebound effect as your body adjusting back to normal after processing the alcohol that helped you fall asleep.
As opposed to being drunkenly sleepy, your body wakes up. Due to this, you are highly sensitive to your environment, such as light coming through your window, the sound of a car horn outside, or even a slight change in temperature.
Despite knowing you need more sleep, the smallest of variables can jolt you awake once the alcohol leaves your bloodstream.
Have you ever woken up crazy early for no apparent reason after drinking a few glasses of wine the night before?
Now you know why. However, some preparation can help before you even take your first sip:
Make Your Bed Welcoming For When You Get Home
You can't avoid sleep disruptions if you drink right before you go to sleep. You can do a lot if you prepare your sleeping environment before you leave.
Start with the basics. Sleep hygiene is more important than ever before. Invest in blackout curtains or a sleep mask to block out the light in your room.
It's best to keep the room cool-around 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit-so you don't get too hot when you finally crawl into bed, and using earplugs can help you sleep peacefully.
If your bed is made, you won't have to fiddle with the covers or try to straighten it out when you come home, waking yourself up in the process.
To reduce the effects of one night of drinking, Elizabeth Kovacs, Ph.D., Director of the Alcohol Research program at Loyola University Chicago, suggests getting good sleep the night before that party.
Pretend that you will be sleeping in a noisy, well-lit factory that night, and prepare accordingly.
Eat A Balanced Meal
Before you take your first sip of alcohol, make sure you've eaten a balanced meal to help regulate your body's alcohol absorption.
Slow-burning meals with protein, carbohydrates, and fat will allow the alcohol to enter your bloodstream slowly. Therefore, your body can process it properly without overworking itself.
According to Jason Burke, M.D., creator of Hangover Heaven, red meat is a good choice because it contains a high concentration of protein and B vitamins, which help your body deal with alcohol byproducts.
Whilst You’re Drinking
You're out, living it up, and having a few drinks with your friends. Because alcohol is a diuretic, it's going to make you pee a lot.
As you drink, you're also dehydrating yourself. It is dehydration that causes headaches when you get home (not to mention the next day); dizziness, heat, and discomfort; and tossing and turning all night long.
Drink Plenty Of Water
Drinking water is the best solution. The key is how much and when to drink. Try to alternate between one drink and one glass of water.
While you drink, it keeps you hydrated, and it fills you up, so you won't end up drinking as much alcohol, which will save you a lot of headaches.
Also, you should stay away from caffeine. That means no vodka and Red Bulls, and steer clear of the Irish Coffees.
Cut Yourself Off Early
Lastly, if you know you need to sleep, cutting yourself off early is the smartest thing you can do.
You can still have a good time and avoid being a party-pooper by front-loading your drinking (after eating a little), and then tapering off gradually throughout the night.
Going to the bar after dinner with friends? Drink a glass of wine at dinner and a few drinks at the bar.
You don't need to worry much about mixing alcohol; old sayings like "liquor before beer, you're in the clear" and "beer before liquor, you've never been sicker" are largely nonsense.
Ultimately, it comes down to your individual preferences and tastes. Of course, mixing drinks can affect some more than others. If you have past experience of sickness when mixing drinks, stay clear of mixing.
It is ideal to cut yourself off so most of the alcohol has been metabolized before you even get home and try to sleep. As a result, you get decent sleep and avoid a hangover the next day.
As a ballpark estimate, try to cut yourself off at least four hours before you go to sleep.
It might seem like a long time to go without a drink, but when you consider how much time it takes you to get home, relax, and then hit the sack, you'll still enjoy yourself while your body processes what you've already consumed.
When You Get Home
These tips will help you sleep through the night if you're sober enough to comprehend what's happening.
Go Easy On Pain Meds
Once you get home, take a small dose of ibuprofen to fight off the early effects of a hangover. When combined with alcohol, Tylenol or other acetaminophen-based medicines can cause liver damage.
Stay away from sleeping medications as well. Drinking alcohol might seem like an easy way to get some sleep.
However, the alcohol can intensify its effects, interfere with your breathing, and cause pauses in oxygen intake, which not only makes you feel worse in the morning, but can be unsafe as well.
It's also a good idea to prepare before-bed snacks, so you don't raid the fridge when you get home if you're hungry.
Focus on stabilizing your gut, so you won't experience indigestion, and on providing your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to properly process the alcohol while you sleep.
High-fiber foods, such as vegetables, fruits and crackers, can't be beat. Fiber-rich foods can slow the digestive process a bit, which means they can also slow the absorption and processing of alcohol.
However, if you experience indigestion after drinking, or if you have an upset stomach, this may be worth it.
Honey is another good post-drinking snack. Low blood sugar can exacerbate the effects of drinking alcohol, according to Dr. Richard Stephens of Keele University
You can use a spoonful of honey, honey slathered on toast, or even a banana as simple, easy-to-break down sugars to fuel your body's breaking down of alcohol through the night.
Choose neutral foods before bedtime. Additionally, these are great snacks for the morning after, when your blood sugar will be particularly low.
Before you go to bed, drink one last glass of water, then fill up a glass to keep on your nightstand in case you get thirsty later.
You won't sleep well if you drink too much water. You'll have to wake up throughout the night to go to the bathroom.
Consider Pedialyte, a nutrient-rich sports drink that will hydrate and isn't packed with sugar like other sports drinks.
Although this won't instantly cure your dehydration or potential hangover, (it’s not a magical potion you could just chug when you get home) it can help rehydrate you somewhat.
Pedialyte is actually better the next morning. The key to beating dehydration is prevention.
Put your phone on silent or into airplane mode, so you won't be woken by notifications. Turn off your alarm and plan to sleep in.
The rest you need is going to take longer. If you are reading this, you probably require as much sleep as possible, and probably can't sleep in. Next time, try to call it a night if that's you.
Next time you have a few drinks, try some of our methods for a better night’s sleep. Who knows - you may wake up feeling refreshed with no hangover!